#FinnaDinna2016: The Process

It was brought to my attention that event planning—specifically party planning— was my strength. My really good friend and fellow blogger, Alex Yee, once told me he wanted to learn my tricks for party planning. I was somewhat surprised because I never considered that I was known for that but it was inspiring. Since then I’ve tried to find different reasons to host dinner parties or plan birthdays. Before Finna Dinna I had only been able to plan people’s birthdays. After Ethan officially started his culinary career I urged him to practice by cooking for our friends. Thus a dinner party idea inspired us both and on Dec. 13, 2014 we hosted our first #FinnaDinna. That was a success in our eyes but we were looking forward to hosting another dinner— an even better one. So in December 2015— after a lot of thought— we started planning Finna Dinna 2016.

Vision

We wanted this dinner to be a level up from the first. Everything from invite design to plating took considerable thought. We envisioned a black and gray color scheme and more sophistication in plating and table scape.

Venue

We had the first Finna Dinna at my place in which we magically fit 14 people into my small living room/dining room. This time around we wanted to invite more people and while my place was the first choice, I wasn’t confident in cramming 20 people into that space. It would take away from the experience and stress me out knowing people were packed like sardines eating the wonderful food Ethan would make. Ethan was in the process of decluttering his space and we realized his spot was the best option. He completely cleared out his living room so we could fit two 8-foot tables and 20 chairs. 

I drew a floor plan to scale and cut out different pieces of paper that were the tables to scale to help me figure out the floor plan. I highly recommend this if you’re doing any kind of party planning or moving into a space and need to place new furniture. 

Budgeting

Google Docs was my best friend for this dinner.

Google Docs was my best friend for this dinner.

The budget of an event is everything. Everything. So we detailed every expense to ensure we were charging our friends fairly. And yes we charged. I think part of the reason why we do what we do is that we want to serve the best to the best people around. While potlucks and casual get togethers are awesome, NOTHING is wrong with going all out once in a while. I wish we did it more. Plus it was a good way to showcase our talents. A dinner party for 20 people can cost upward to $1,000, depending on food, rentals and other decorating costs. 

Setting up a budget requires looking at what you want to serve, what you want to serve it on, how you want to display the dining table and what other elements you want add to enhance the experience like decorations and gifts for guests to take home. Research, research, research. Research prices for everything you want to include in the dinner and then from there find out how much all of it would cost per person. If it’s too much you’ll have to look at what items you can take out, what ingredients you don’t need and what things you can do yourself for free.

Also budget your time. It took us a month to plan and test out the dishes but that’s because we had done this dinner before. This was also a smaller event so you don’t need as much time to plan. Set your date and then move backward to set deadlines on different tasks like finalizing the menu, printing menus, ordering rentals, etc.

Rentals

Photo by Vu Le or Lauren Golden (sorry I couldn't remember who I stole this snapchat from lol). We rented all the chairs, tables and tableware.

Photo by Vu Le or Lauren Golden (sorry I couldn't remember who I stole this snapchat from lol). We rented all the chairs, tables and tableware.

We rented from R&R Party rentals in Bellevue and planned on renting from them again, but they didn’t have the dishes that we envisioned for Finna Dinna 2016. I searched for another local event rental company and found Grand Events Rental. They had what we were looking for and they ended up being cheaper per unit than R&R Party Rentals. 

We rented the chairs, tables, all silverware, dishes and “water goblets” (they ended up looking like wine glasses) from Grand Events. Some things to consider when you’re renting from an event rental company: see if you can tour their showroom to get a feel for the actual products; check if you can pick up the rentals yourself (they always offer delivery but it’s an extra charge tacked on); see if they have a cleaning fee and find out in what condition you can return the rentals (for R&R all you need to do is stack the rentals in the crates unwashed. Grand Events required we clean the rentals or be charged a cleaning fee); double check your order to ensure you receive the right rental pieces (I didn’t check and I later found out that I ordered wooden tables but got the plastic ones which are a dollar more. No big deal for a small scale event but imagine if it were for a larger event and you ordered 50 tables. That’s $50 you didn’t have to spend).

We ordered our rentals a week before our event. Of course that is because we were planning a dinner for 20. More people requires more time to ensure you get the pieces you want. 

Invite List

We sent our invitations via Instagram direct message.

We sent our invitations via Instagram direct message.

I considered this the hardest part of the whole process. Of course I really wanted to invite everyone and that would have been easy. There were three things that determined our invite list (other than inviting our closest friends): 1. space 2. first timers 3. strong supporters. With the space we knew we could only fit about 20 people which cuts out about 30 more people we could have invited and wanted to come. We definitely wanted to invite people who didn’t get to go to the first Finna Dinna. Finally, there were a few people who showed a lot support since the first dinner and showed a lot of excitement for the next one. We appreciate y’all. I dream of having something much bigger so we can invite all of you!!!

Design

I went through different variations of the menu. 

I went through different variations of the menu. 

I designed this dinner’s logo, invite and menus. I’ve been doing hodgepodge design projects for years and this dinner helped me practice a little more. Ethan and I collaborated on the design and I helped bring his vision to life. We were going for a darker, sleeker, simpler design to show maturity and sophistication. One thing I really tried to emphasize was consistency. It was a challenge figuring out how the logo would translate into an etched design for the glasses we let our friends keep. Luckily I think I found a good transition from invite to full menu but I definitely want to go back to the drawing board for the logo.

Set-up

A little glimpse of the table scape. Photo by Ryan Azucena.

A little glimpse of the table scape. Photo by Ryan Azucena.

Since we had a small budget and limited space, simplicity was the way to go for the table scape. I stuck to the colors in our invite— black and gray— and used small details for impact. I added some freshness with flowers in small containers and candles. I also added rosemary sprigs to tie the whole experience together. The dessert included a rosemary ice cream so I thought it would be impactful to start the dinner with rosemary on the table and end with rosemary on the plate. Last touch was running string lights down the table and letting it spill out on the end. It not only added a light source since the room would be dark but it added a nice touch of rustic chic (whatever the hell that means).

Guests enjoying conversations. Lolz.

Guests enjoying conversations. Lolz.

Conclusion

I was very pleased with this dinner and I’m already looking forward to another one. I drew a lot of inspiration for this dinner from my own style (in clothing and aesthetic) and Ethan’s cooking style. If you have any questions about hosting dinner parties let me know. I’m still learning myself but I’m always down to collaborate and share my own experiences. If you’d like to see more photos from the dinner and the food, hop on over to Ethan’s blog.

Until next time y’all!

CHEERS